Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Turin Shroud: tweaking of Shroud Scope yields further evidence for a TWO-TONE body image.

This shows the stages in changing the as-is Shroud Scope image (far left) to the final tweaked version (far right). Click to ENLARGE

 This is a follow-on from the last but one posting, which reported evidence that an 'official'  Halta Definizione image of the Turin Shroud, displayed 4 years ago on the BBC's website, was apparently two-tone (generally a nondescript grey in colour, but a much brighter orange-brown at a few locations).

The orange-brown parts subjectively have the appearance of pressure and/or thermal  imprints, possibly contact scorches, being interpretable as parts of the naked human anatomy with the highest relief, and thus most likely to make immediate and direct contact with an enveloping linen sheet.

However, some difficulty was experienced in eliciting the same two-tone pattern from the more comprehensive Shroud Scope, which is available free on the internet, thanks to the initiative of Canadian IT specialist and Shroud authority, Mario Latendresse.

That difficulty has now been overcome with a patient exploration of brightness/contrast/mid tone(BCM) settings in  MS Office Picture Manager.

This posting will serve simply to flag up the two-tone effect, which this blogger has not previously heard mention in some 3 years of reading and research. The question of whether it's an artefact of "playing around" with a photo-editing software package is one that will be deferred for now. Suffice it to say that if I thought for one  moment that were the case, then I would not still be pursuing it now, far less posting to the Web.

First, let me introduce the new settings that were needed with Shroud Scope. They were BCM -76/70/60 respectively, radically different from those used with the Halta image (31,36,100). Despite that large difference, the new settings, as with the old, produced relatively little change with a carefully chosen photograph of thermally-developed 'invisible ink' scorches on linen (one of may possible origins of the TS image, but included here as a  current research preoccupation, indeed working model).

Left: photograph 'as is'; Right, after applying BCM = -76/70/60 in MS Office Picture Manager. Note the modest augmentation of stain intensity without major colour differences, within or without the circled areas.

The next graphic shows the effect of applying those same settings to Shroud Scope images, starting with the dorsal side.

Before applying new settings (click to ENLARGE)

After applying new settings (click to ENLARGE)

 As above but cropped and enlarged x2. Note two tones (orange-brown on shoulders, upper back, in contrast to  a nondescript mauve coloration on lower back, lower half of buttock etc). Click to ENLARGE.
Note the new two-tone appearance above, with some regions having a similar hue to the first unadjusted image, while others, notably the back of head, shoulders, back, one side of buttocks, shins etc now exhibiting an orange-brown coloration.

Shroud Scope Face Only Vertical, before and after applying the new settings. Note the colour difference between face and hair, the first being strongly orange-brown, the second much less so, and the strong imprinting of the prominences (brow ridge, nose, chin etc).

Note that no one site makes a complete case for there being a two-tone distribution that is independent of the prolifeartion of scourge marks, or for the orange-brown coloration being specifically a feature where bony or other prominence makes physical contact with linen. One has to look at ALL the sites to get a balanced view.

So let's not forget the frontal side before taking a break here:

Frontal side, Shroud Scope, before making adjustments (click to ENLARGE)

The same, after applying BCM = -76/70/60 (click to ENLARGE)

Still doubtful dear reader? Then take a look at this one, hot from the presses.

Here I've made a very small adjustment to the mid-tone value, from 60 down to 52, because it seemed to be optimising that crucial difference between the two colorations, on a location where it is possible to deduce where there is more or less easier contact between linen and flesh, e.g. backs of hands a certainty, the region around the hands much less certain. It is this kind of assessment where one compares colorations with known sites and their ease of access that gradually builds confidence that the colour differences are real (even of the absolute hues are not), and not trivial artefacts. I've also left the flags etc in the above picture, to show how little change there is after making these adjustments in Picture Manager.

Here's the Shroud Scope starter image for comparison:

I'll be back later with my interpretation of the two-tone effect. It was previously flagged up in my last-but-one posting, but being (admittedly) over-long is now somewhat difficult to find. It won't hurt to repeat it here. Or there again, it may, conceivably just may, there being some folk in this fractious old world who don't care one bit for my anti-authenticity line. But have they been reading AND researching for nigh on three years? Well, I have, and there comes a time when one's thoughts start to crystallize.  So why hold back? Tell folk what one really thinks. Don't beat about the bush.

Afterthought: so which image provided a better demonstration of two-tone properties. Was it the Halta Definizione picture off the BBC site:

or was it the comparable Shroud Scope picture in today's posting?

I'd say it was a close call, but one of them has the edge.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reality check: UFO spotted on spacewalk video

Here's the picture that is supposed to electrify us (AOL site):  the yellow arrow is mine:

Yup, the arrow is supposed to point  to a "UFO". Maybe, but probably not.

You see, there's a tiny source of difficulty when attempting to spot UFOs out the window of one's orbiting spacecraft.

Anything that breaks off one's orbiting spacecraft does NOT  fall away into deep space. Why not? Because  it has exactly the same momentum and velocity as the spacecraft itself, assuming it's simply "fallen off", as distinct from being blasted off in an explosion.

That being the case, it simply accompanies one, orbit after orbit, forever on view outside the window. That's due to lack of air resistance (no air resistance in space) and because gravity in orbit, while still acting, causes objects that have been placed into orbit to go into "free fall" AROUND the Earth instead of downwards towards the Earth (even the young Newton was able to figure that out some 350 years ago). You and your space craft's cast-offs are forever enjoined, unless or until you do something to slow the junk down, speed it up, or attach something (a gas cylinder etc) that sends it off into a different orbit.

You could try blowing it up, but some of the fragments would  probably follow you on your orbit.

All that accompanies one in orbit is not necessarily a UFO. It may be your contribution to space junk.

Speaking of which:

Watch: Russian cosmonauts jettison unneeded antennas on successful spacewalk

Headcam footage shows two russian cosmonauts floating outside the International Space Station on Wednesday on a six-hour spacewalk 



Telegraph article, 23 October 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Who says the Shroud of Turin image is homogeneous? Think again, fellow shroudies...

Here are two images of the TS image, frontal v dorsal,  that I can confidently state that no one apart from myself has ever seen before. In fact, I too had not seen them until a hour or so ago. (One needs to scrutinize them closely)

Shroud of Turin frontal image. Can you guess the provenance? Click to enlarge (look closely at chest, cheeks etc)

Shroud of Turin, dorsal image. Again, can you guess the provenance? Click to enlarge. (Look closely at shoulders* etc).

It's been said the TS image is "homogeneous", an observation deployed (quite rightly) - were it true -  in the recent past against the claim of STURP's sadly no-longer-with-us Raymond N. Rogers that it was formed by post-mortem decomposition process, one that was dependent on interaction between putrefaction vapours (ammonia, cadaverine, putrescine etc) and 'impurity' coatings on the linen .

Personally, this blogger has never bought into that scenario, for reasons enumerated previously  in some detail here and my other specialist 'shroudie' blog  that need not concern us now.

These two images show in  my humble estimation  that the TS image, whether imprint or painting (I still prefer imprint) is most definitely NOT homogeneous. Under the carefully adjusted contrast, brightness and mid-tone settings,  but emphatically with NO fiddling with colour,  they show some "grey" areas and some "orange-brown" areas, admittedly an approximate description.

The effect is seen better on the second (dorsal) of those two images.

*And if anyone says it's "just" blood, I have another image, ready and waiting, to kick that suggestion into the long grass. (Sorry about the idiomatic English - I only use it when animated,  and  I have to say that fellow shroudies sometimes get me animated, not to say pissed-off,  with the dismissive put-down tone of their comments).

 Following a recent line of enquiry, set out in some recent postings, I think I may know why. Details to come later.

For now, let's just content ourselves with the two new images, and hang loose for a while, if only to tease my readers (to say nothing of play for time).

Here's a challenge to fellow shroudies: whose images were these originally, and where did they first appear, before I began to tinker with them in MS Office Picture Manager (legitimately I maintain). ?

More to come (at leisure). ;-)

Like now (19:20 day of posting)

There's another image from the same source, same adjustment of brightness, contrast, mid-tone in MS Office Picture Manager. Note the two- tone effect.  (Click to enlarge).  Has anyone reported that previously?  Is the TS image really "homogeneous" as claimed? 

 Btw: we science bods much prefer the objects of our interest to be non-homogenous. It's a case of vive la difference, correction, vive les differences (between one bit and another).  It's those differences that tend to drive scientific enquiry (even if that tiny truism  is usually omitted from internet quickiewiki versions of the real scientific modus operandi).

21:10  Here's a comment I tried to post a few minutes ago to that "failed" to send (not for the first time). It was addressed to the site owner's personal friend (John Klotz) - I was told as much  in an email - whose pretentiously, not so say obscurantist entitled book (self-publication) has recently appeared.

"Why anyone would choose to write a  book while the facts are still coming in (albeit not as quickly as one would prefer) is a complete mystery to this blogger. That applies especially to lawyers who deploy the adjective "quantum" in the title of their book in relation to the TS, but who fail to deliver on that pseudo-scientific eye-candy (as a first-impression commentator recently felt moved to point out, though thanks to the author for volunteering that information - there's hope for him yet).

Einstein admitted to being unable to embrace quantum theory, or even get his mind around it. ("God does not play dice" etc). Why should we ordinary mortals imagine we can succeed when a gigantic intellect of the 20th century was left totally bemused?"

The only good reason I can think of for the human consciousness to operate on a quantum-physics principle is that we are stuck for a means for exploring our own consciousness. It's like an introspective  whale or dolphin, wondering why it is confined to the sea, and can't join (or re-join)  the other mammals on land. Answer: it's a question that is not worth addressing. Move on. Address those questions that ARE worth answering. Junk the term "quantum" unless one has something useful to say."

Wednesday 22 October

Before amassing  and displaying more  visual clues to inhomogeneity (yes, that's really all one can say with certitude - we are looking at clues - one needs a theoretical model (or models) that tries to make sense of what one is seeing, and hopefully suggests further lines of experimentation. That's my understanding of the scientific method - start with observational data first before getting too attached to theories.

So, by way of preparing the ground, so to speak, for a presentation of ideas and interpretation, coloured no doubt by past experience(s), here's something I put together last night:

Stepwise evolution of thinking over the last 3 years approx.

Mark 1 hypothesis – having quickly shelved radiation/thermostencilling,  assessing the merits/demerits of  the TS image as a simple contact scorch

Mark 2 hypothesis: Might there be  a way of achieving the same scorch intensity at a lower temperature? Experiment with invisible ink (lemon juice, in 2012) .

Also experiment with one-cell thick dried onion epidermis as an overlay, which also takes an intense brown coloration (Maillard reaction ) with scarcely any effect on underlying linen

Mark 3 hypothesis: Given that the invisible ink effect with lemon juice is  not due simply to acid-etching (citric acid) but to a more complex mechanism involving ascorbic acid, (Vitamin C)  which is believed to thermally decompose to give a four-carbon reducing sugar (threose) and thence a Maillard reaction with accompanying protein etc.then...

Maybe the TS image is a Maillard product, not formed in 1st century as Rogers proposed, using a corpse and its putrefaction products interacting with starch-impregnated linen, but from 14th century linen impregnated with a mixture of  reducing sugar and protein (e.g. milk or a mixture of lemon juice and egg white  etc)

Maybe there are areas on the TS with the imaging medium in both states,  pre-and post development, dependent on contact with heat (either from a template, or the 1532 fire or both).  In other words, imprinting of  the TS image required the presence not just of heat (simple non-nonsense scorching) but prior impregnation of the linen with a thermosensitive substance, modelled for now as "invisible ink" with milk or lemon juice (possibilities abound for creating a  two-component Maillard reactions in situ).

OK, let's now take a look at another image from the same brightness/contrast adjusted archive as the ones above. It's the dorsal legs.

Note the same two-tone effect as regards body image (grey/red-brown), not helped by the abundance of scourge marks in this location, but I maintain a real property of body image, distinct from blood.

Note that the grey component of the body image is NOT restricted to the legs in this graphic. There is lots of it elsewhere. But why? Does that not suggest that the entire linen was first impregnated with the thermosensitizing medium, and that while it has shown maximal 'development' (by analogy with photography rather than thermography) it is NOT exclusive to the body areas.  Note especially the wide band of grey on both sides of the vertical scorch line on the right hand side, the latter due to trh 1532 fire and the way the linen was folded in the reliquary. Is there not some prima facie evidence there for some heat 'development' having occured along the fold, such that the coloration now resembles that of the legs? There are other more diffuse, somewhat patchy areas elsewhere, all suggestive of "background colour" that has ofetn been remarked upon as reducing the tone difference between image and background. Maybe the background was not pristine untreated linen - but maybe it was impregnated with something other than Rogers's starch impurity coating. Maybe both ingredients for a Maillard reaction were present, needing only a temperature rise (less than needed to scorch untreated linen).

So how do we explain the two-tone coloration?

Let's take a closer look at the TS face - where it's easier to be sure what's blood, what's not:

(The image on the right is 'as is' from my re-discovered archive, i.e. before adjusting contract and brightness to reveal the apparent colour difference. Interestingly - and reassuringly- the red-brown coloration of chin, cheeks etc is faintly visible , note, BEFORE making those adjustmnents).

Note carefully the parts of the face that appear red-brown instead of grey. Is there anything about those parts that might make them behave differently in an image-IMPRINTING scenario, as distinct from a simple painting?

Here's an enlargement:

Rest assured it's still a valid TS image, based on what one sees when entering into tone-reversal in Image J:

... and after 3D enhancement in the same software:

08:48   What follows will come as no surprise to those familiar with this blogger's particular 'line' on the provenance of the TS image as an attempt in medieval times, probably early or mid-14th century, to simulate a sweat imprint, using a template or even real person to imprint a negative image from the most prominent body contours. The red-brown regions are precisely those parts of the human anatomy that would make best contact with linen. I propose that the red-brown areas represent slightly-scorched linen fibres, while the grey areas represent unscorched linen, the colour being due to a deteriorated Maillard reaction product formed on and still adhering to the surface fibres. In other words, the TS image is a two-tone composite,.

 10:54:  So what did I do to 'enhance' those TS images, and was the two-tone effect real or artefactual?

I've already pointed to strong evidence it is real, based on there being faint yellow-brown coloration in the starting TS image  BEFORE applying those new values for brightness, contrast and midtone value. First, let's give some more detail on that. I used Microsoft Office Picture Manager, and set the three values, originally all at zero to 30,36 and -100 respectively. Reminder: there was no direct adjustment of colour.But what one might ask would those three new settings do to a modern image with plenty of colour, displaying a range of  RGB values and intensities.

That's easy enough to check. I went through my recent photographic archive of experiments  for investigating in situ Maillard reactions, and pulled out one for use as a reference standard. Here is, before and after applying (30,36,-100).

As you can see, all the adjustment has done is to increase the saturation of each colour, but has NOT materially altered the colours in any obvious manner. All it does is to  make faint colours and faint stains look more prominent. That would strike me as a necessary step for any serious analysis of the TS image, given it's initially faint almost to the point of invisibility.

In fact I could have used a direct saturation control on different software, e.g. MS Paint, but chose not to, since that was part of the colour-editing package. I did not want to alter colour, only saturation, but more importantly did not wish to be accused of playing fast and loose with ANY control options listed under a colour menu.

Incidentally, if new readers to this site missed my posting on the above experiment, the impregnation codes (i.e. after soaking and drying) are: EW = egg white, ASC = ascorbic acid, EW1 + ASC2 =egg white applied first, then ascorbic acid, ASC1 + EW2 = ascorbic acid first, then egg white, CON = water control.
Heat was applied with an ordinary electric iron. Actual temperature? Dunno. Hot enough to produce a very faint yellowing on prolonged pressing against linen, but not sole-shaped scorch.

Needless to say, I shan't be deflected from my task by facile talk about "hidden artefacts". I've been conscious of that risk from the word go, and have been doing and talking about the kind of internal checks that are second nature to anyone who has spent their entire career in and around research laboratories.

I still haven't said where I obtained the base image, which you see has been pre-labelled at source. Clue: it was one I considered state-of-the-art before the IPad's Shroud 2.0 was released, before Mario Latendresse's splendid ShroudScope (don't ask!), even before I badgered David Rolfe for more of the HD pictures he was using to adorn his Shroud Enigma site. Has nobody recalled where they last saw that labelled image, and what it now is in its modern guise?

12:45  So can the same two-tone effect be obtained with Shroud Scope?  Answer: no, except with the eye of faith, and tilting of laptop screen, when there is a vague impression of reddish or yellow-brown on the prominences of the face, but less so the hair.

Before (left) and after (right) applying -30,20,0 (brightness, contrast and midtone value).  As I say, tilt laptop towards one to see a hint of brown in the right.

Why should the effect be seen so better in the first image selected for study?  Ah, that would be telling.

13:40  Got to wondering of there might be a Shroud 2.0 image going for free on the internet, given I have no iPad or Android (and am in no hurry to get one, having discussed pros and cons with owners).

It didn't take long to find a site that has exactly what's needed, albeit with a little cut, paste and crop (all for legitimate research purposes):

I'll be back later, after seeing what can be done with that image you see left of centre.

13:50: Here's the excised image:

OK, let's enter it into MS Office Picture Manager and see if it reproduces what we've seen earlier. It should.

Maybe a little reddish-brown in beard, relative to hair, on (-28,62,-21) but one has to know what to look for. It does not leap out of the page. Maybe a close-up of the 'critical' face with its angular prominences is needed.


It's not been easy. There is no perfect combination of settings. However, here's on (18,12, -97) that is reminiscent of what was seen earlier, with a generally somewhat grey and patchy body image  (greyer still outside) in which the extremities, or at any rate the chin  appear as red-brown, distinctively different in hue from the lank hair.

Note the blotchy grey that surrounds the image, which I interpret as the remnants of thermal-sensitizing medium used to impregnate the linen prior to imprinting.

AS I say, I'm a little surprised and disappointed with that  HD Shroud 2.0 image, for reasons that will be clear shortly. But then it was only an ad for 2.0. so may have lacked the "HD" (High Resolution) of what can be downloaded to one's iPad, or, in an earlier era... Maybe resolution is critical to spotting the two-tone effect. Maybe that's why it's been missed previously, by myself and others.

15:00  So why am I a little surprised and disappointed,

Well, it's like this dear reader. Some time before this blogger got (re)-interested in the TS, post the 1988 C-14 dating, there was an article on the BBC's  site by one Tom de Castella.  It was dated 12 April 2010.  (Tom de Castella? OK, so an Englishman's home is his castle, but one does not need to brag about it - certainly not by adopting a surname in feudal  Anglo-Norman French).

Stand by for a screen grab.

But there was a companion page too. Stand by for another screen grab.

It was called "Unshrouding the science of the Shroud":

Is that a TS image I see there? If so, whence its provenance (that term being employed in a strictly archival sense)?

Let's look down at the bottom of the page. Hopefully we'll discover the provenance of that image has not been altered since this blogger's eye first alighted on it yesterday morning, resulting in this unforgivably overlong posting.

What's that say, right down at the bottom there ? "Image courtesy of Fotografia - Proprieta Arcodiocesi di Torino". What could that mean, I wonder?   Will need to get my Italian dictionary out...

16:10:  Fancy. That's the same folk (in a cosy relationship with the Turin TS custodians) who now do the Shroud 2.0 app for iPads ("enter your credit card details").

 Well, would you credit it?  There we were, assuming that HD Shroud 2.0 was only available on iPads, at a price, when all the time it was there at the click of a laptop key on good ol' Auntie BBC, going way back to 2010.

It's a funny old world.


OK. End of tease. My TS image was essentially Shroud 2.0, made available to the BBC in 2010 well ahead of the better-known release of the iPad app that we call Shroud 2.0. But it's the same image from that HD (high definition) photography that, with a little intensification of existing colour ("saturation")  shows the TS image is in fact TWO-TONE.

Has anyone said that before today?  Maybe. If so, I must have missed it. Does anyone else recall hearing the TS image described as two-tone?

17:13  This comment from Hugh Farey has just appeared on

October 22, 2014 at 12:04 pm
Colin’s pictures are from Haltadefinizione’s Shroud 2.0 projected as labelled by the BBC at Although I can’t swear to having seen them before, they have been there since 2010…

Back to blogger: 
 Well, I've certainly got something right today, having told my wife some hours ago that if anyone could correctly identify the source of my input image, it would be the inestimable Hugh Farey.
 18:35  Sadly there are some folk who confuse high resolution with high magnification.

If one's interested in the colour differences that exist between one part of an image and another, viewed with the unaided eye, then one has to choose the appropriate level of magnification. There's no point in going to a high level  of magnification (no matter how good the resolution) if one can no longer discern the image.

One needs the appropriate level of magnification where image analysis is concerned (excluding studies at the microscopic level re degree of superficiality etc where the outlines of the image are no longer visible). Having fixed on the optimum level of magnification, one then desires the maximum level of resolution (i.e being able to distinguish between two close features).

Takeaway message: the TS image is a composite, which with enhancement of colour-saturation in MS Office Picture Manager appears to comprise an orange-red region at the most prominent parts of a 3D figure (nose, chin, brow-ridge, rib cage etc) and a greyer region elsewhere. The latter is not confined to the body image but appears elsewhere on the Shroud.

Interpretation of these differences is an ongoing challenge, possible pointers to which  have been included into this blog posting.  

 These preliminary findings and their interpretation may need to be qualified or modified in the light of further findings, especially if or when data become available from a new round of tests on the actual Shroud

End of post. Comments invited.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sciencebod says it was more likely hydrogen sulphide gas, H2S, that tragically killed young Zane Gbangbola, not hydrogen cyanide.

Yes, there's a story in today's Mail on Sunday that is not only tragic, but incredible - in more ways that one.

Here's a screen grab of the article.

Yes, it seems totally incredible (though by no means impossible) that the threat to life of living in a flood-prone area - in this case close to a river- should come from toxic gas.

That much is possible when you read that the property was situated over an old landfill fill site, something that happens with increasing frequency thanks to dereliction of duty by those who are charged with protecting public safety.

But in this instance the chemical details simply do not ring true to this retired biomedical science bod . The official line is that it was hydrogen cyanide (HCN) that killed the wee lad, AND left his father a permanently paralysed paraplegic.

Without further ado, I'll say straightaway that HCN does not fit the facts, physically, chemically, biochemically and microbiologically. Nor does carbon monoxide (also proposed/considered)  quite fit with the particular circumstances. It was far more likely to be have been HYDROGEN SULPHIDE, H2S.

I'll be back later with my reasons for saying that. Believe me, there are any number of precedents for suspecting that it was H2S that was the silent killer. What, plain old H2S do I hear you say, the smelly component of bad eggs, farts, schoolboy stink bombs? Yes. Plain old H2S, which as the old chemistry textbooks used to delight in pointing out, is more toxic, weight for weight, than hydrogen cyanide!

What's more, as those same fact-laden books in my public library, way back in the 50s, grimly pointed out, the earliest effect of "smelly" H2S is to knock out the olfactory system, i.e. sense of smell.

The likely mechanism of H2S production?  Anaerobic fermentation of sulphur-containing waste, notably waste foods with proteins. The same process takes place in our own  large intestine, especially if there's been malabsorption in the small intestine due to bowel irritability.

07:20 Sunday

The MOS is up to its usual tricks, inviting readers to be first to place a comment in the box provided.

More later.

What they don't tell you is that it could be HOURS (I kid thee not) before those comments appear, and since they are then listed chronologically, most recent ones first, the folk who responded early invariably find their comment entombed at the bottom of the stack. The UK's MSM journos with very few exceptions ignore what appears after their articles 'under-the-line', which is why this science blogger stopped bothering to post comments a long time ago. In any case our journos - liberal arts graduates for the most part- detest citizen-commentators with specialist knowledge. They can't get their minds around that - namely that some well-informed folk are not sitting in Universities waiting for the phone to ring, praying for Fleet Street to check on its facts that rarely happens these days - journos much preferring to publish what's immediately to hand, right under their noses-  - and not bothering to monitor subsequent  responses re veracity or otherwise, far less issue corrections. (It took a whole month once for a Sunday newspaper to correct its claim that carbon monoxide gas is lighter than air, and so quickly moves from faulty boilers to concentrate in the upper floors of a house. How do I know? Because I was the one who wrote and pointed out the error).

This septic (science-averse) isle!

I'm also increasingly contemptuous of Google as a search engine. Time and again I enter 3 or 4 carefully chosen keywords, only to find that the returns ignore one or more, and even SCORE THEM THROUGH as if to say "silly boy, you are looking for something that is far too specialized to be of general interest". Yes, I know about placing quotation marks around key terms, or prefacing with a + sign, but that made not the slightest difference a few minutes ago. As for Google's repeated attempts to give returns on similar but non-identical words, then coyly asking if one really meant one's own word - I am now seriously taking a fresh look at the alternative search engines, even ones with silly names, once convinced they are not re-packaged Google returns.

The story I'm looking for concerns a worker at a centre for collecting spent batteries, whether for recycling or safe disposal I'm not sure, who sorted out the silver-containing batteries and rigged up (unofficially as I recall) an acid bath , hoping to dissolve out and recover the silver. What he didn't know (I'm hazy myself re the details) is that those batteries can and do give off hydrogen sulphide when placed in acid. The man was found unconscious, close to death, and like Zane's poor father ended up as a paraplegic, but also with serious mental impairment too as I recall.

Admittedly the story is old, since it was featured in a chemistry teaching aide I used in the 90s (having once done a spell as a  science schoolteacher thanks to Thatcherite butchery of industrial research associations).  Each double page was given over to a facsimile newspaper clipping (so that particular H2S-poisoning incident might have occurred in the 80s or even earlier).

Returning to Google: at least this posting  has been instantly hoovered up by Google's web crawler - provided you enter search terms that are sufficiently specific:

Still Sunday: 08:44

Might there be parallels with Cameroon's Lake Nyos disaster in 1986 that killed hundreds of people, and most of the livestock?

The deaths are usually attributed  to a giant bubble, dare on say burp, of CO2 gas from the depths of the volcanic lake, and CO2 as we know is a heavy suffocating gas, at least before it's had time to disperse and become irreversibly mixed with the atmosphere by gaseous diffusion (see my Most Popular posting - top of sidebar listing). But one can find plenty of references to "sulphur" (as in the link to the BBC's original report above) or more informatively "hydrogen sulphide" as having contributed at least in part to the rapid onset of collapse and unconsciousness. Eye witness, correction,  nose-witness reports, if one can refer to them as such, attested to the presence of an all -pervading aroma of rotten eggs.

Still Sunday  09:00

Have just tried a new Google search to see if I can filter off returns that have "cyanide", and which look for "sulphide". So I left "hydrogen" off to avoid ambiguity. Here's what comes back:

The yellow rectangles are mine. I have asked Google to search for "sulphide", and what does it do? It  scores out my "sulphide" and proceeds to list returns that make no reference to sulphide. Maybe my posting is to be found later, but that's hardly the point. If it's there, as one now expects, having seen it earlier, then it should have been at the top of the list oif, as I suspect, it's the only one to specifically mention "sulphide".

What Google is doing here is totally reprehensible, at least from a scholarly perspective, in that it is demoting new postings, simply on the grounds for containing novel terminology.Yet it's that same novel terminology that is what's new, but relying on search engines in particular to get some visibility.

I shall now go back to the Mail article, to see if any comments have appeared.

It's now 09:16, and still there are no comments displayed.  Maybe none submitted? Possibly, but here's the date and time stamp from the top of the article against the journos' bylines (Note what else comes with the cut-and-paste which normally I delete, but will keep on this occasion in the hope that it triggers some kind of system at the Mail to see what others are saying out here in the cold dark vacuum of the citizen blogosphere.

So, it was first posted some 10 hours ago, late last night, just before midnight, and still there are no comments showing. It will be interesting to look at time stamps, as and when they do, assuming they are time of receipt, as distinct from some doctored times to make the Mail look more responsive to feedback than is really the case.


At last: 21 comments have now appeared en bloc beneath the article, the first posted 10 hours ago, no less.

From having a quick read, one should not be too quick too discount carbon monoxide from a flood pump, despite attempts to exclude that as a source of fumes. I shall keep an open mind, knowing how slow some medics and hospitals are and have been to diagnose CO poisoning, at least in its early stages when folk are complaining of headaches and nausea. (And we all know how quick hoteliers the world over are to blame CO poisoning on food poisoning from street stalls etc!).  However, if a child DIES from suspected gassing, then the tests for post mortem CO are robust enough to show up hours or even days later. Are they aware of the acute toxicity of H2S, encountered only rarely? Do they have specific and routine screening tests > I doubt it. My money is still on H2S, not HCN, not CO or CO2.


Why do I think hydrogen cyanide to be a non-starter? First, I'm not sure that a first-on-the-scene firefighter with an HCN-detector kit (used to warn of hazards from flammable sofas etc) should be the last word on the matter (see article).

Secondly, more importantly, HCN shows "extreme solubility" in water (which must include flood waters). I shall try to get an exact figure, but for now and entirely confident that hydrogen cyanide could not be evolved in sufficient quantities from flood- inundated subsoil to become a lethal hazard.

Hydrogen sulphide? Much, much less soluble in water. I'll try looking out some figures. First, grandchildren await.

11:35:   Answer: approx 4.5 grams of H2S per litre/kg of water. Thus the reason  for describing H2S as being only slightly soluble in water. One can confidently expect to see it bubbling up through water from a subterranean source, e.g. rotting organic matter. That would NEVER be the case with HCN - it being far too soluble for bubbles to survive long enough to make it to the surface. I shall try to get an exact figure on the (super) solubility of HCN.

11:45: No wonder I couldn't  find  a figure. The solubility of HCN is described in this link as INFINITE at all temperatures. In other words, there is no upper limit. HCN could not possibily be a hazard in the vicinity of waterlogged subsoil. Most would stay in solution.

Sources of pollutant HCN? Hardly likely as products of anaerobic fermentation, given that HCN is toxic to most microorganisms, not just fish, mammals etc. HCN binds to cytochromes that are ubiquitous in the cells of living organisms. H2S on the other hand is a well known byproduct of anaerobic microbial metabolism.

It looks like it's a two-way contest between H2S from fermenting landfill and CO from an oxygen-starved petrol-driven pump. Which of those was more likely?

12:05: The comment count on the Mail article is still 21, as earlier at 09:40. Doubtless, that will mean another tranche of comments are being held up, awaiting "moderation", which all too often means vetting by the style police whose knowledge of the world and its technicalities must remain a matter of speculation.. As I say, I stopped posting comments to these overbearing MSM sites a long time ago.

15:45 Here's some quantitative data on what happens with increasing concentrations of inspired H2S:

(Thanks to the Canadian Union of Public Employees' website)

Parts H2S per million parts of air - Effects

0.13 ppm - This is the odour threshold. Odour is unpleasant. Sore eyes.

4.6 ppm - Strong intense odour, but tolerable. Prolonged exposure may deaden the sense of smell.

10-20 ppm - Causes painful eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, gastrointestinal disturbance, loss of appetite, dizziness. Prolonged exposure may cause bronchitis and pneumonia.

30-100 ppm- Sickeningly sweet smell noted.

50 ppm - May cause muscle fatigue, inflammation and dryness of nose, throat and tubes leading to the lungs. Exposure for one hour or more at levels above 50 ppm can cause severe eye tissue damage.

100-150 ppm- Loss of smell, stinging of eyes and throat. Fatal after 8 to 48 hours of continuous exposure.

200-250 ppm - Nervous system depression (headache, dizziness and nausea are symptoms). Prolonged exposure may cause fluid accumulation in the lungs. Fatal in 4 to 8 hours of continuous exposure.

250-600 ppm- Pulmonary edema (lungs fill with fluid, foaming in mouth, chemical damage to lungs).

300 ppm -  May cause muscle cramps, low blood pressure and unconsciousness after 20 minutes.

300 to 500 ppm may be fatal in 1 to 4 hours of continuous exposure.

500 ppm - Paralyzes the respiratory system and overcomes victim almost instantaneously. Death after exposure of 30 to 60 minutes.

700 ppm - Paralysis of the nervous system.

1000 ppm - Immediately fatal.

If I'm not mistaken, some of those suicide kits that have been used in enclosed spaces (cars etc), especially in Japan and elsewhere, are H2S based.

16:20: Still the same 21 comments under the Mail article. This time it's not me who is spitting blood, but those who have taken the time and trouble to compose a comment, only to see it held back, not knowing if or when it will appear. Click-bait journalism?

16:40  This screen grab is from an earlier Mail article (9 August 2014) covering the tragic aftermath of the Chertsey flooding:

17:00 Sorry to repeat myself, but I am not claiming to know what caused the death of your Zane and left his father in a wheelchair. As the title of this posting makes clear, my target is that hydrogen cyanide hypothesis. That still strikes me as improbable, even after reading some suggestions that the landfill site may have been used as a dump for cyanide wastes.  That's not impossible, though they would have been industrial cyanide salts in all probability, probably in some kind of containers, and in a worst case scenario, the leakage would bring those salts into contact with water releasing HCN gas that would then dissolve in water. Scarcely if any HCN gas would escape from that solution, at least at fairly neutral pH (acid solutions are another matter). My H2S suggestion is based on the suggestion that it was a domestic landfill site, though that appears nto to have been the case, at least as a Council-run operation (private dumping is another matter).

So H2S may make a lot more sense than HCN,  but that does not mean it makes more sense than CO (carbon monoxide). It depends on who you believe as regards the running of water pumps that may have been faulty and/.or poorly ventilated  (I'll need to do more reading before commenting further).

What may have been possible is that the triggering of the fire brigade's  cyanide detectors, usually the result of fires, not floods, may have led to premature conclusions, ones that caused a delay in the recognition and testing of the more probable involvement of carbon monoxide (or H2S) as an alternative. 

Oh, and while it's a bit of a longshot: was the family eating cassava that day, and if so, how was it prepared? Cassava is a notorious source of cyanide in certain tropical sub-Saharan ethnic cuisines, needing careful steeping in water etc to get rid of it.  (I gather that Gbangbola is a Nigerian surname). While it may not have been responsible for poisoning,  it may possibly have been responsible for those positive blood cyanide tests that have nurtured the 'landfill cyanide pollution' scare.

18:00  Have just read that second (earlier) Mail article from start to finish. The science in it is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, notably as regards the physical properties of hydrogen cyanide, already discussed.

There seems no alternative to doing a line-by-line dissection, and hopefully at the end we'll see how the cyanide scare story came to complicate and obscure the real reasons for the tragedy, even if the precise toxic agent remains a matter for debate(though I'm coming round to the view that it WAS carbon monoxide somehow getting into the house from water pumps, and not hydrogen sulphide).

Incidentally, I did an earlier posting many moons ago on the Corfu hotel tragedy that killed two young siblings. The father and his partner were lucky to survive too. That too was due to seepage of carbon monoxide, and was  posted on my long-abandoned but still accessible Dreams and Daemons site from October 2006.

I too was lucky to survive a carbon monoxide poisoning in my youth. It was in the days when it was coal gas, with 4% CO, not natural gas. What probably happened was that the 'meter ran out' while a pan was on the cooker. A sixpence was put in the meter, but the gas tap remained in the ON position, nowunlit, all happening late evening. Next day I groggily set off for school, retching in both  directions. Other family members suffered, but fortunately not so badly. 

18:20:  There are now 37 comments on the Mail thread - an extra 16. What's the bet they all appeared as a tranche? Talk about imposing on people's better nature. I shall now go and read the new ones.

18:30: Here's one of them:

Landfill sites are far more likely to emit Methane gas than Cyanide gas.

Ah, some sound common sense at last...

19:15  Mail comments: still 'stuck' on 37. How many more building up in the In Tray one wonders?

Monday October 20

Will be trying today to find out something about the hand-held HCN analysers used by fire brigades. What's their principle of operation, specificity etc?

Have found this data sheet for starters on a Chilean product that describes the principle as "electrochemical". Does that mean there's a special electrode material, sensitive to HCN only? It doesn't say, but at least I have some more specialized keywords with which to search further. Or will Google score them out, and direct me to cyanide in bitter almonds or cassava instead?

Still 37 comments under the Mail's article. What's the likelihood we'll see a lot more appear suddenly this morning, held over since yesterday.

Am starting to get a feel for this story. The evidence that young Zane dies as a result of any gas from the subsoil or standing water is starting to look more and more improbable, given that we know that 3 pumps had been purchased to deal with the flooded basement, the unresolved issue being whether they were in operation the night of the tragedy, and their precise situation. More and more I find myself questioning the  choice of words in the Mail's headline, and the suggestions of official cover-up (while accepting that the authorities have not handled the enquiries into the lad's death or father's injuries in a manner that inspires trust and confidence).

Reminder: the headline (see first graphic) reads: Officials knew FOUR years ago about toxic gas blamed for death of boy in Surrey floods: Environment agency protected their own building ...  but didn't tell boy's family living right next door.

It makes it sound as if a particular toxic gas has been pinned down with certitude, and that the particular gas (hydrogen cyanide) is routinely produced from landfill sites, with no regard to what kind of materials are known to have been deposited there. In short, the headline is accusatory, based on no firm scientific evidence that I can see. It's alarmist. It's an attempt to preempt proper enquiry and assessment. What's needed first is a listing of all the relevant data sources, from fire brigade, hospital, coroner's court etc, that may or may not have a bearing, together with freedom access to that detailed data by all interested parties (this blogger included) without having to seek release under FOI legislation. Everyone has a legitimate  interest in understanding what happened that night in Chertsey.

Still Monday 20 October, 07:50

I said yesterday I would do a full line-by-line dissection of the earlier Mail article (May 2014).

Here it is, copied from my Word file. It may have lost some formatting to distinguish article, with highlighted passages (red) and my responses (in bold italics). We'll see. Here it is, as is.

When the floods came, it wasn't a faulty pump that killed our son... it was deadly cyanide gas: Parents say that leaking landfill site real cause of death - and there's a cover-up 

  • Zane Gbangbola died during heaviest floods in UK for 248 years in February
  • Allegedly killed by faulty pump at riverside home in Chertsey, Surrey 
  • New evidence suggests carbon monoxide seeped from petrol-driven pump
  • Substance has left his father Kye paralysed from the waist down
  • Grief-stricken parents fear cover-up as they 'had not used the pump' 
  • Scientists say 'gas used in Nazi camps could come from nearby landfill site'

The parents of a seven-year-old boy said to have died due to a faulty pump used at their home during the winter floods, claim he was really killed by deadly cyanide gas leaking from a landfill site.
New evidence has emerged that toxic hydrogen cyanide may have leached from a lake at the back of the home where schoolboy Zane Gbangbola tragically died during the heaviest flooding to hit Britain in 248 years.
His grief-stricken parents now fear there has been a cover-up, as police continue to insist Zane died from carbon monoxide poisoning from a petrol-driven pump at their riverside home, even though the Gbangbolas insist they did not use it.
Meanwhile, Public Health England officials and environmental experts have uncovered evidence of hydrogen cyanide at the riverside property in Chertsey, Surrey, which still remains sealed off six months after the tragedy. 
Scientists have told The Mail on Sunday that the deadly gas – used in the Nazi death camps – could have come from the former landfill site that stands just 20 yards from the back of the family’s home, as the rising water table could have pushed cyanide gas up through the landfill soil, generating hydrogen cyanide.

“Generating hydrogen cyanide”? But cyanide gas IS hydrogen cyanide, outside of chemistry laboratories where more exotic forms of gaseous cyanides are possible (e.g. organic cyanides of higher molecular weight). One would like to know which “scientists” were consulted, what they actually said or wrote, and whether that was accurately conveyed by the Mail reporters.

As floodwater clogged the basement, gas bubbles could have risen up into the house with tragic consequences.
As mentioned earlier, hydrogen cyanide gas is not like air or other normal atmospheric gases. It cannot bubble up through water, That’s because it instantly dissolves in water to make a solution, Those who know old-fashioned chemistry will recognize the similarity with some other gases (ammonia, hydrogen chloride especially) that are essentially incompatible with water, that 'rush instantly' into solution.

The family were rushed to hospital in the early hours of February 8, after a call from Zane’s mother Nicole Lawler, 37, who had found both Zane and his father Kye, 48, unconscious. Zane was pronounced dead on arrival, while medical tests confirmed there were traces of hydrogen cyanide in his parents’ blood.
Only traces?  There could be other explanations for those traces (notably diet, see earlier). What prompted the running of cyanide tests? Was it word-of-mouth from the fire brigade that their hand-held HCN detectors had been triggered? Did that result in the hospital path lab displaying  what has been termed “confirmation bias”?

Kye, a company director, has been left paralysed from the waist down and still attends almost daily hospital appointments. A consultant neurophysiologist has confirmed his medical condition is caused by exposure to hydrogen cyanide.
One would like to see the full report. How was paralysis due to cyanide differentiated from that due to carbon monoxide?

Firefighters evacuated the area after their personal alarms were triggered by the presence of the gas. A total of 17 people were rushed to hospital and checked for signs of poisoning, but the only casualties were Zane and his parents. 
I see that a particular model of gas detector is designed to sense both hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide. 

The importance of calibrating against known concentrations of each gas is stressed to ensure accuracy (and avoid cross- reactions?). How reliable were those detectors on the night in question in alerting to the presence of cyanide specifically, in a situation where the culprit gas may have been carbon monoxide?

Later the same day, teams from Public Health England (PHE) and the Environment Agency descended, scouring the flood-hit area in biological suits.
PHE has confirmed hydrogen cyanide was present. The couple have been advised not to return home – even to collect belongings or precious photos of their only child.
How was that cyanide measured? That information, and indeed the numerical data should now placed into the public domain.
Yet authorities are now accused of refusing to investigate the landfill site. Meanwhile, Zane’s parents are still waiting for a date to be set for their son’s inquest – despite new rules that mean inquests should be completed within six months of a death, unless there are good reasons for a delay.
More than 10,000 people have signed a petition demanding ‘a national debate’ on the risk of toxic gas leaching from landfills during floods, as Zane’s parents claim they face a ‘wall of silence’ from the authorities.
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, Kye said: ‘It’s been six months since Zane’s death and people are still at risk. It’s obvious there are powers that don’t want this to come out.’
One’s heart goes out to the Kyes, having had a child snatched away from them so suddenly and mysteriously, and leaving Mr. Kye semi- paralysed, confined to a wheel chair. Anger and bitterness is understandable. But it’s too soon to be talking about cover-ups and conspiracy theories. Official foot-dragging, ineptitude maybe. What’s needed right now are the existing data that first implicated hydrogen cyanide, and some indication as to whether those tests are as specific as claimed, and new data from the site (from test borings etc). 
A million tonnes of hydrogen cyanide are still produced globally each year, and it is used in many industrial processes from paper-making to electroplating metal. Regulations around its disposal are tight, but that has not always been the case.
Not true. It’s not the gaseous hydrogen cyanide that is produced in quantity, except maybe as an intermediate that never leaves the chemical plant. given the lethal nature of the gas (used previously in US gas chambers for execution etc). It’s the solid cyanide salts, like potassium cyanide that are the articles of commerce that leave the chemical plant with prominent warning labels attached.  These are mainly a hazard by ingestion, and less so by wetting with plain water, when some HCN gas is formed, but should usually be detectable by the smell of bitter almonds. The chief hazard would come from contact between the solid cyanides and acids. That in fact is said to be the mechanism of cyanide poisoning. When the cyanide salt enters the stomach, the hydrochloric acid that always resides there acts on it immediately, releasing hydrogen cyanide gas, which may  then be absorbed directly into the bloodstream, but which may also pass up the gullet, being a gas, and then get into the airways and the lungs.
Still Monday, 14:50

Thoughts are now crystallizing. Firemen carry around these gizmos that warn them of dangerous products of combustion - or partial combustion, notably carbon monoxide and, we now learn, hydrogen cyanide.
One can understand the device being used in a burning building. But a flooded home as well, albeit one in which a child has died and his father rescued in the nick of time?  Why would a fireman check for gas contamination? Presumably because the obvious cause of unconsciousness and  death was from carbon monoxide, especially of petrol-driven pumps were on the premises (whether used or not). But a reading was registered for hydrogen cyanide (it's not clear yet whether one was also made ofr carbon monoxide). Did that really mean HCN was around, or was the detector faulty, especially if the twin type (see above) registering the presence of cyanide as well as, or instead of, carbon monoxide. Is this entire story of gaseosu emissions from landfill site the result of faulty instrumentation?

Remember: these hand-held meters do not measure CO and HCN the way that a chemist would do so in the laboratory, using "wet chemistry" maybe, or more sophisticated methodology that isolates the components by chromatography (usually HPLC) with runs against the authentic standards. They use what are essential electrochemical devices that are secondary rather than primary detectors - where there cannot be 100% certainty that one is really measuring the target substance.It'sthe difference, say, between a mercury thermometer, where one can see the expanding liquid climb up the scale, and a thermocouple where all one can see is a digital readout.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wanted - a new 'sexier' name for resistant starch (RS) in pasta and other foods. "Prebiotic starch"?

The inspiration for this posting is a feature article by Dr.Christoffer van Tulleken in this morning's Daily Mail.


It's the proverbial curate's egg - good in parts (not so good in others). But for someone who pioneered resistant starch research, way back in the mid-80s, and saw it referred to once as "the trendiest form of dietary fiber" (in the US that is, not my  own UK) there are one or two aspects of the article that I find depressing. That's  unless, unless I grasp at one tiny straw, or should that be tiny crumb of starchy comfort offered . Maybe resistant starch DOES need a new sexier name, as the writer - a working scientist no less - proposes.

Apologies if you are an early bird to have stumbled on this new posting, because I'm going to be (seemingly) self-indulgent by completing this posting in bite-sized instalments over the next few days or so.  Sorry, but it's the way I work. I find it better than trying to assemble in one go.

So off I go to retrieve the writer's crucial words (and tell you something about him - he being a welcome change from your usual MSM nutrition writers. This one has a bent for research - real research - and has come up with what (for me) was a welcome confirmation of something I reported back in 1986, namely that levels of resistant starch increase on re-heating of cold, cooked pasta and other sources of wheat starch..

So what's this with the name?  Here's an excerpt from the article (my highlighting):

"The subject of our experiment? Resistant starch.

It's hard to think of a less inspiring name for a food, so you can imagine my disappointment when the producers of the series Trust Me, I'm A Doctor said this was what I was going to investigate.

My co-presenters were flying to tropical locations, reporting on brain transplants and trying the latest aphrodisiacs, but I was off to Guildford to do an experiment about something that sounded only slightly more appealing than my other task for the programme: waxing my legs*…

We need more research into resistant starch done by scientists such as Denise Robertson, but she's going to need to get in touch with some PR people for a name change if it's going to take off."

*Me again:  don't be deceived. It's a bloke, one Dr Christoffer van Tulleken who is described as an infectious disease specialist at University College London (one of my three alma maters, MSc (Biochemistry) 1970).  The footnote goes on to say that his research is funded by the Medical Research Council. "Trust Me, I'm A Doctor"  can be seen on  BBC 2 tomorrow at 8pm. I'll say more about him (and his twin brother) later.

OK, so what's my stake in all this stuff about the 'boringly named' resistant starch. First, I did not discover it. The credit for that goes (primarily) to Professor John Cummings and Dr. Hans Englyst, then at the Dunn Clinical Nutrition Centre, Cambridge, UK. I had been researching the claimed long-term protective effects of cereal dietary fibre, using the rat as an experimental model, and discovered with colleagues (notably Dr.Nat Fisher and Mr.John Gregory) that cereal DF did indeed give a modest protection against colonic diverticulosis (outpouchings or herniations of the wall of the colon). The question was what to do next, while MAFF, our funding body was still ready to inject more funding. Interest turned to starch, based on the realization that only a small proportion of that major food constituent would need to escape digestion in the small intestine for it to enter the lower bowel and act in a DF-like fashion, providing nutrition to our resident gut flora (anaerobic bacteria for the most part). Some wheat starch escapes gelatinization on cooking and baking, but I could find little evidence that raw wheat starch was indigestible, comparable say to raw potato starch. The breakthrough came on the day I got wind of Englyst and Cumming's latest research findings,  ahead of publication, showing that "enzyme resistant starch" was a reality in COOKED COOLED  starchy foods, and that amylomaize (high amylose corn) starch whether raw OR COOKED was abundantly endowed with resistant starch (RS).

So, there was a flurry of research, in which all the stops were pulled out, and a year or so later I published in the then newish Journal of Cereal Science what I believe is/was the first paper to be devoted entirely to this new topic.

 Now let me say immediately that this posting was not intended to be my life story, or even just a part, and what you see above simply provides some context, explaining my interest in that Mail article.  So let's take a brief break from that 'context' and straightaway address the question in the title. Should 'resistant starch' be given a new name, and if so, what?

After an infusion of caffeine, I have two answers to those questions. YES, it should be renamed, switching the emphasis  from what does not happen to RS in the small intestine to what it does in large intestine, i.e. to turn a negative attribute into a positive one.

Name?  Here's one for starters. Call it  PREBIOTIC STARCH.  Important -that's PREbiotic. not PRObiotic.

The difference? There are any number of googleable sites that explain the difference between prebiotic and probiotic components of the diet. Here's a link to one, not necessarily the best, though it seems reasonable.

Probiotics are living bacteria that one might consume in the hope they survive passage through the acid stomach and then small intestine, with no guarantee that they do (see the large literature on yogurt). Prebiotics are the substances that lower bowel bacteria feed on,  usually taken to mean "good" aka "friendly" strains, allowing them to grow and proliferate. Resistant starch is known to favour the growth of an important class of bowel bacteria that generate the 4-carbon butyrate, which has been an important consideration even since Roediger discovered that butyrate is a specific metabolic fuel for the mucosal cells that line the colon. In other words, one has what appears to be a symbiotic relationship between human cells and microorganisms, or rather CERTAIN strains of microorganism (not all). Not all gut bacteria are friendly e.g. Campylobacter, so it's a rational strategy to try and swamp them with good bacteria.

Late addition: see the informative wiki entry on prebiotics in nutrition, which lists resistant starch as an obvious candidate for inclusion in that category.

Afterthought: I guess one could qualify and/or expand the description to incorporate some physics and chemistry, e.g. by renaming  RS as 'prebiotic starch crystallites' (PSCs).

noun: crystallite
  1. an individual perfect crystal or region of regular crystalline structure in the substance of a material, typically of a metal or a partly crystalline polymer.
    • a very small crystal.
Personally, I'm a believer in simplicity, especially where the general public is concerned. 'Prebiotic starch' is good enough for me, as a retired scientist, so is probably good enough for the population at large.

Here's a video clip I've unearthed showing Chris van T and his twin brother Alex on their bikes, apparently comparing high fat v sugar diets to see who performs best (I've still to figure that out from the rather too short clip).

Congrats to Chris and his BBC2 team for setting up that commendable controlled testing of the RS diets, especially the finding that a second heating improved the ability of the pasta offering to blunt the rises in blood sugar and insulin. It was especially gratifying to this retired science bod, having reported precisely the same effect back in '86, with  (see above abstract) successive cycles of cooling and re-heating in two different systems (a concentrated gel of wheat starch, subject to autoclaving, and a dilute suspension of the same, subject to cycles of boiling and cooling). Each new cycle appears to "melt" additional starch that then retrogrades on cooling, i.e. re-orders or 're-crystallizes'. One of the noteworthy findings of my paper was that RS formation depends on the minor amylose component  of starch, which unlike the major amylopectin component is unbranched, i.e. linear. Up till that point there had been a widespread assumption that RS formation involved the same phenomena that give rise to bread staling, largely attributable to amylopectin retrogradation. I was able to disprove that by showing that amylopectin produced scarcely any RS on heating or cooling, but RS yields became spectacular if/when the amylopectin was first digested with an enzyme (pullulanase) that acts specifically at the branch points, converting it to a collection of small linear UNBRANCHED  fragments. There have been a number of patent applications in recent years based on that discovery with pullulanase. Some acknowledge my paper, some do not. C'est la vie.

Blog site: Chris and 'Xand' van Tulleken 

Update: October 15. 

Have just added "prebiotic starch" to the title of this posting (and search words, natch). But am I the first to deploy the new name? Nope, as a quick Google search reveals. Loadsa folk have deployed "prebiotic starch" in the past.

Update: October 16

Am pleased to see that the University of Surrey is assisting with the BBC series and (especially) overseeing the new research.

"That is what I was tasked with doing for the BBC, under the expert guidance of Dr Denise Robertson, a senior nutrition scientist from the University of Surrey. The subject of our experiment? Resistant starch."

 I  have a soft spot for those Guildford-based nutritionists and biochemists. Why? Because I had two of their (then)  PhD students spend some time in my laboratory at the Flour Milling and Baking Research Association  at Chorleywood. (I was a kind of temporary supervisor/mentor for them, having plugged them into my ongoing dietary fibre research programme - prior to the specific focus on RS). That was when  Prof. Dennis V.Parke was the (formidable) head of department, though he sadly is no longer with us.

One of the two researchers was Dr.Michele Sadler, who is now a high-powered nutritionist, as seen by this screen grab from the internet.

Hello there Michele (if you ever get to see this posting). Sorry to have overworked you (yes, methinks you were looking a tad pale by the time you left ;-).

The other was Dr. David Moore. The last I heard, he had gone off to the States and was making an impact there. But it's not an uncommon name, even when prefaced with Dr. so I'll need to keep researching for a while longer.

Progress! I've been able to track down a reference to his 1983 PhD thesis which, handily, gives his middle initial.

David J.Moore.  Now we're motoring!

 Back to the BBC:

The BBC has this morning put up a short feature on the re-heated resistant starch trial - not surprising really.
 It's good to see the focus on cooling and re-heating, since this is a simple practical step one can take that not only increases that allegedly protective 'prebiotic starch' input to the lower bowel, but can help reduce food wastage  as well (most folk probably prefer to cook too much than too little pasta than needed for single servings).

Here's a photo that accompanied the article, with both of the prime movers and human guinea pigs in the frame.

The Independent now carries the reheated-pasta story.

It's now Friday October17, and I've been busy condemning the latest excrescence of pseudoscience in the wacky world of Shroudology. The price for doing so was to have an extraordinary attack made on my own scientific competence, notably the 'kitchen experiments' reported here on this blog and elsewhere. I'll return to that later in the day, and mount what I hope will look like a credible defence of my (relatively intact) professionalism despite having now been retired for well over a decade. (Do decades away from the bench make one, er. decadent?)

Before I do that, I must share with the blogosphere an article in this morning's Daily Mail which if nothing else will prove this science bod is at least 5 years ahead of the game where calorie-counting is concerned (arguably 28 years if one can include the gap between my discovery re re-heating cooked, cooled starches and the main subject of this posting).

 Here's the article and its splendid advice.

But now spare a moment to look at this blog's sidebar, and look not for a bottle of coke (which I regards as one of the New World's worst contributions to mankind - essentially dietary barbarism).

Look instead for the bottle of wine, (nope, I've spared you the trouble) and the caption that accompanies it (inserted at or close to this blog's inception in 2009, not 2005 as I mistakenly stated yesterday).  Yes, this science bod prides himself on being boringly and tediously ahead of the game. (That's the trouble - I'm usually too far ahead, and by the time folk catch up, I'm usually too absorbed in my new and latest idea/project to be bothered one way or the other).

One of the less satisfactory aspects of WordPress and the blogs it hosts is the absence of a Comment archives for given individuals. One has instead to rely on search engines to track down what someone said days or weeks ago that may still rankle, and which one finally decides cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.

Fortunately, Google has on this occasion obliged:

Following that link, back to a posting on 5 days ago (even 1 day can seem a long time in blogging), I see the comment in question was in response to this one from me, spotlighting the perennial bugbear of this site - pseudoscience.

October 13, 2014 at 3:45 pm
“Isn’t that what science is all about?”
That depends. What model is being proposed that can:
(a) generate a superficial negative image?
(b) make it seem 1400 years younger than it really is in radiocarbon dating?
(c) is experimentally testable in principle?
One suspects that (c) is the brick wall. How does one get a cadaver in a laboratory or elsewhere (rock tomb etc) to suddenly start spontaneously emitting neutrons?
If one cannot, if that step is deemed to have been a ‘one off’ miracle, then it’s emphatically not a scientific model. It’s an attempt to foist a preconceived narrative that while wrapped up in the language of science is untestable and therefore NOT science. In short, it’s our old friend, the bane of 90% of sindonology – it’s pseudoscience.

Back came Mike M, who as I recall is a Canada-based pharmacist with this hand grenade of a second paragraph:

October 13, 2014 at 6:05 pm
I disagree, testing if the shroud was exposed to neutrons should not bundled up with fries and coke (image formation mechanism, trying to replicate the resurrection). It’s a simple test on its own that should demonstrate that the shroud was irradiated, period. If it proves positive then we can look into the possible reasons why?

If the test was done according to a good protocol and performed according to the scientific method, proper controls, proper documentation, peer review, then why not. You can’t just flag anything you don’t like as pseudoscience and then perform your own kitchen experiments away from any protocol/proper documentation/controls/peer review and claim it’s proper science since you are doing it.

Oh dear.Where does one start? Does one start with the crazy logic on display there, which seems to think that pseudoscience and (allegedly) sloppy experimentation are one and the same thing, such that no one deemed less than perfect in their experimentation is allowed to condemn pseudoscience when they see it.

Let's remind ourselves first what is meant by pseudoscience, which needless to say is an attempt to deploy the language of science in a manner deliberately planned to foster a personal agenda, giving it an undeserved air of objectivity and authority.

More to follow (much more, as one of this blogger's other perennial bugbears is internet trolling, and sites that not only tolerate it,  but seemingly encourage it by 'benign neglect' of what some commentators say, while jumping on perceived and usually minor indiscretions others who find themselves the targets of the Trolling Tendency. Read: operating a double standard.

So what provoked that attack on my science, kitchen-based though it might be (but then I'm in good company there, thinking of Newton's seminal home-based experiments on the splitting of white light into the colours of the visible spectrum AND their recombination into white light, all achieved with glass prisms bought from the local marke)?

Might it have been this September posting  see full title below, that he had in mind (there being only one for that entire month) with what I consider was ultra-cautious cin flagging up the exploratory nature of my new project, hardly needing the circulation of a "protocol", given I work independently, not as part of a research team.

Title: "More on that enigmatic negative and superficial Turin Shroud image. Let's not strangle at birth a possible working model based on invisible-ink technology."

 Note the care taken to flag up the preliminary, tentative nature of what I was doing or trying to do, i.e.enter into new and unfamiliar territory. It's what scientists do - real ones that is, as distinct from pseudoscientists who use conference platforms to launch untested hypotheses (including wacky wild-eyed speculation) on an audience which they know is desperate for "fresh new evidence"  to back up their convictions but who can be fobbed off instead with science fiction.

Poor documentation? Every claim in that September posting was accompanied and supported by a photograph - some 10 in all, not counting photos from my literature searches that revealed I was not the first to ponder on the reasons why lemon juice etc give an "invisible ink" effect. 

Let's look at a single typical photograph from that posting, and ask whether the experiment was lacking controls or poorly planned or executed in other respects.

There you see a strip of linen that had been impregnated with lemon juice butted up against one that had been treated with a mixture of citric acid and glucose, and a hot template then pressed down serially as it cooled across the junction of the two strips. There's clearly a difference in the way the two linens responded, best seen at lower temperatures (right side) where the template has cooled with each successive imprinting of its image and progressively lost heat.

In what way was did that experiment lack controls or proper documentation?
In fact it confirmed what others had previously  discovered and reported, though one has to look hard to find it, namely that the invisible ink effect with lemon juice is NOT due to its citric acid or sugar content. It's due to an entirely different component namely  ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), which I was able to verify in the same posting, comparing Vit C impregnation with suitable CONTROLS (plain water, citric acid etc).

What's more, the design of my experiments featuring the serial imprinting off a single heated template provide a systematic exploration of the effect of temperature, even if I'm unable to put numbers on those strips (though I have a rough idea from earlier experiments with an oven thermometer).

When did you last see the scorch-dismissal tendency bother to investigate temperature variation and/or attempt to vary it systematically. Certainly not in the put-down that Paoli Di Lazzaro was invited/inveigled into posting on back in February 2012, where he was content to use a single excessively-high temperature/contact time, apparently with no reverse-side protection (damp backing cloth etc) that inevitably overscorched.

Colin Berry’s idea is untenable, and heat cannot produce a superficial coloration

February 21, 2012
imageAfter Colin Berry posted his statement about image formation, referenced here, I personally requested comments from members of the Shroud Science Group. This is Paolo Di Lazzaro’s answer to me and other SSG members who might not be expert enough in physics to understand why Colin Berry’s model (without experiments) is untenable. Now with Paolo’s kind permission those notes to SSG members are being published here:
Dear Dan and All:
I checked the idea of Colin Berry in the website you quoted.  In short, from a physics point of view, his model is untenable, especially concerning the depth of coloration. Let me explain why.

This was from the same individual who had earlier claimed to have spent "years" trying to reproduce the Shroud image with conventional physics before being forced to use his employer's uv excimer lasers after hours to produce much-trumpeted faint yellow discoloration on the supereficial fibres of linen.

How many on that site took PDL to task for his sloppy one-off scorch experiment with no attempt to explore a range of temperature systematically as I have done and ALWAYS DO in all my scores of experiments.

Just one, in fact - the very first comment from a rare visitor, one "ArtScience". Here's his perceptive observation and my appreciative response:

February 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm
Nice experiment, and easy to do, Dr. Lazzaro. Thanks.
I suppose the next obvious experiment would be: how about heating the coin up away from the cloth and then place it down on the cloth for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 seconds, then 10s, then 15s etc. Getting a series of scorching
It seems as though it should be possible to catch a partial scorch, no?
February 21, 2012 at 5:32 pm
Nice comment Art. I’ve just said much the same on my own site (like he should have tested lower temperatures). Is Dr.Lazzaro seriously suggesting that a scorch is all-or-nothing, with no means of fine-tuning the colour intensity?

Where were all the regulars on that site who are instantly dismissive of my kitchen experimentation when PDL, with all the facilities at his disposal, chose to report that woefully inadequate and self-servingly designed one-off experiment that "proved" contact scorching was too fierce and uncontrollable.

Note too the site-owner's choice of graphic, all part of the attempt to ridicule anyone daring to challenge their view that some kind of exotic physics suggestive of divine intervention was needed to account for the superficiality and other 'subtle' characteristics of the TS image. I say that faint contact scorches at the limit of visibility are also subtle, and should have been meticulously excluded by thorough EXPERIMENTATION before foisting their wacky physics on suggestible folk via their daily newspapers. It is they who lacked the protocols, the controls, the proper documentation, not I, while acknowledging that my resources are limited.

More to follow (including some observations on what has been dubbed  "disconfirmation bias").

Yes, probably most have heard of 'confirmation bias ', with Shroudology being a textbook example of the genre. From wiki:

"Confirmation bias, also called confirmatory bias or myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, or prioritize information in a way that confirms one's beliefs or hypotheses. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning."

Probably fewer have heard of  'disconfirmation bias':

What is that? Again, from the body of that same wiki entry:(my italics):

"The results illustrated that people set higher standards of evidence for hypotheses that go against their current expectations. This effect, known as "disconfirmation bias", has been supported by other experiments.[27]"

Yes, that's the long and the short of it. This retired science bod,  labouring away in his kitchen laboratory, is being held to a higher standard of evidence than any number of shroud researchers and commentators, and though I say it myself, is actually delivering that higher standard of performance. And what happens? Second hand reports of my experiments., light on detail, appear on that Other Site, and it's quite clear that my critics over there cannot be bothered to log in here to read the full report, and who then proceed to make hostile, ill-informed judgements that attempt to trash my credentials as a purveyor of sound science.

Have none of them ever asked themselves this: where are the step-by-step photographs that go with all the mantras that arose when STURP team members continued to experiment post the appearance of the Summary (including I might add Raymond Rogers subsequent to his  retirement in his HOME SWEET HOME, though  whether his microscope was in a kitchen or study I could not say)?

How many photographs have you seen, dear reader, to back up Rogers' claim for an image-receptive impurity coating on linen, described as starch or partially-degraded starch? How many images are there to back up the claim of Adler and Heller's from that protease experiment that blood is under image, not vice versa? How many images or even numerical data are there to back up the claim  of the same pair of STURP heavies (though neither went to Turin to collect their own blood samples) that the blood contains "extraordinary" levels of bilirubin? (I strongly suspect there was no bilirubin, none whatsoever. It was simply a pigment of someone's imagination. Sorry. Couldn't resist that).

How many shroudologists have commented (adversely or otherwise) on the extraordinary absence of documentation, whether illustrated or not, to back these major claims, now mantras, at least in general circulation as one would expect them to be, and not secreted away in personal memoirs etc that are still copyrighted and still earning income for someone, despite these STURP personalities having sadly shuffled off their mortal coil?

Finally, there was this comment yesterday from the fluent David Goulet:

October 16, 2014 at 11:49 am
Perhaps Yannick and Colin can organize the anti-St. Louis conference. I can appreciate your criticisms of the conference, but talk is cheap gents. To quote the kids today, “be the change you wish to see”. Reading from the Book of Lamentations gets us nowhere.

Yes, but don't you realize David that is PRECISELY what I have been doing for nigh on three years, NOT engaging in non-stop carping criticism, but instigating (or trying to instigate) the change I wish to see.

Come to think of it, was it worth posting that research proposal in response to the invite extended on that same site?  It elicited zero response, despite an ongoing so-called conference that did at least have an allocated time-slot to discuss directions for future research.

October 11, 2014 at 10:55 am
Where future research on the TS image is concerned, it’s time to discriminate between, on the one hand, the STURP view that saw the image as pyrolysed carbohydrates and, on the other, the idea of it being some kind of Maillard reaction product. (That’s whether or not one buys into Rogers’ putrefaction vapour model (it not being the only means of ending up with a Maillard product).
The problem one is up against, from a chemical standpoint, is the superficiality of the image and its chemistry, relative to the bulk carbohydrates of flax fibres. It’s a tall order, analytically-speaking, to distinguish image signal (or should that be signature?) from substrate background noise.
There is a possible way it might be done, though it’s admittedly a bit of a long shot.
Ray Rogers employed the technique of pyrolysis mass spectrometry, which basically fragments a specimen and then collects and measures those fragments according to their m/e (mass to charge) ratios. It was that technique that allowed him to pick up a signal for hydroxyproline in the “blood”, an important finding, even if his conclusions were open to differing interpretations.
So how might that technique be refined to discriminate between pyrolysis and Maillard products? The crucial difference is the small amount of additional Maillard-reacted nitrogen in the image compared to the non-image areas.
If one simply took image and non-image areas and performed pyrolysis-mass-spec, looking for differences in fragmentation pattern that could be related to known chemistry, there would almost certainly be a signal/noise problem, as already stated. But there’s a possible way of filtering out some of that noise, or at any rate pinpointing the crucial fragments.
Adler and Heller discovered that the TS image is bleachable with diimide (N2H2), which is a powerful reducing agent. The latter can be reasonably assumed to decolorise chromophores by adding hydrogen atoms across double bonds. So the trick is to do difference spectrums, before and after diimide treatment, and look for all those fragments that differ by m/e =2, corresponding to addition of two hydrogen atoms per molecule or fragment thereof. Having located those key fragments, one then looks up their m/e values, giving preference (where any ambiguities might exist) to those which contain the element nitrogen, bearing in mind there can be no Maillard reaction without a source of that element in the form of amino (-NH2) groups.
If one finds nitrogen in the key diimide-reducible fragment, then one should think Maillard reaction. If one does not, then think simple pyrolysis.
October 11, 2014 at 11:24 am
PS: I see from googling that one can purchase deuterated and tritiated diimide (N2D2 and N2T2 respectively). Those reagents would greatly simplify the task of spotting the reduced fragments on mass spectrographs, given they contain heavier isotopes with m/e ratios 2 and 3 times greater than hydrogen.

Oh, but I'm being forgetful. There's a requirement to be "one of us", not "one of them" in order to have one's scientific views and credentials taken seriously. That posting from PDL above shows what one is up against when dealing with members of the self-appointed Shroud Science Club, sorry, Group, a ploy if ever there was to keep shroudology 'in the family' , to block out outsiders. Don't believe me. Read what Giulio Fanti wrote on shroudstory a while ago (July 2012)

 Personally, I have nothing against the Shroud Science Group as such (while  preferring myself to remain free of 'clubs'). But I do take exception to someone who says he "does not want to waste time in discussions outside the Shroud Science Group". That's not how science operates. All that matters in science are the ideas, wherever they come from. Personally, I'll listen to anyone who can deliver new thinking on the Shroud. There are no 'card-carrying shroudologists' where this blogger is concerned.

Draft title for next posting:  "It's high time Shroudology dumped the exponents of authenticity-promoting science fiction, and returned to first principles."

Saturday 18 October

Fancy. No sooner have I flagged up a more proactive stance against the purveyors of pseudoscience, or at any rate, those who have blind spots for conventional physics, and what do I find? Six visits today, no less, to a posting I did on my WordPress site, way back in September 2012, which I'd forgotten about, but which on re-reading said pretty well everything I would have said in my next posting.Yes, 6 visits to a particular posting. Yup, that is most unusual, nay, exceptional, indeed totally unique in my experience. Summat's afoot!

Here's a link.

And here's a screen grab with the title:

So who's picked up on that posting and why? Is it a single individual, or a group, dare one say club, that is preparing some kind of attack, or more fancifully on my part, a defence or even prospective damage-limitation exercise? I'm on tenterhooks now, wondering how this might pan out.

Still Sat 18 October (19:20)

There's a difference between (a) slaving away at the bench for years, as claimed, attempting to reproduce the TS image with one or other experimental approach, each failing to tick all those boxes, as distinct from (b) doing nothing experimentally year after year, on the grounds that increasing knowledge of the fine details of the TS image reveals it to be far too subtle to be capable of replication in the laboratory with conventional science, far less medieval technology.

If (b), one cannot claim that "heating linen cannot give a superficial discoloration" if one has not in fact bothered to test that proposition experimentally, notably by contact scorching, claiming instead that the experiment could never give a positive result (and then, late in the day, finally getting round to doing the experiment, albeit in cack-handed fashion, but under conditions that are virtually guaranteed to deliver the "predictable" negative result.

I do believe that to be an accurate account of why we come to be where we are. That's almost 3 years after the claim that the TS image has never been replicated with conventional science, DESPITE TRYING, or so we are told.  Frankly, I fail to see any evidence that genuine attempts were made to do that initially as claimed. However, I'm prepared to concede that's an uncharitable view, and that I've missed things in my reading.

Well, I have some lengthy papers, pdfs etc to read, or in most cases re-read, to seek evidence for the claimed years of work ever having been done, as distinct from theorizing as to what is/was not worth doing. It may take some time away from this blog to complete that reading, but if my hunch is correct, namely that what is claimed as activity was in fact sheer inertia - a disinclination to embark on activity, then I shan't mince my words. If that were the case, as I strongly suspect, then we've all been led up the garden path  by exponents of a certain brand of pseudoscience, and the sooner we get back to Square 1 and re-examine the entire issue of the TS image provenance from first principles, ie. CONVENTIONAL physics and chemistry, the better.

I may be gone some time (but will continue to keep an eye open for new developments in the world of science and ideas generally).